We had a fabulous day of touring! It got off to a good start when our tour guide (“Henry”) hooked us up with individual listening devices so we could each hear him speak into a microphone as we moved throughout the sites. He told us these devices are only used for the highest level of tour groups, so we are apparently special indeed.
We began with the Summer Palace, the aptly named summertime residence of the emperors. The “Dragon Lady” (Empress Dowager Cixi) has particular influence there, as she rebuilt much of it in the late 1800s during her 48 years in power. We rode a dragon boat across the lake and enjoyed the beautiful buildings and walkways.
Following the Summer Palace, we had an arranged lunch at which the students got to try Peking duck (the adults had had it out at our lunches earlier in the week). In addition, we had dishes of chicken, shrimp, beef, eggplant, tofu, and bok choy with mushrooms, followed by several dessert offerings and then duck soup to finish the meal off.
Our first stop after lunch was Tian’anmen Square. Before entering, we saw a truly great Beijing site: the first KFC in China, built in 1989 (It is open 24 hours and has a drive-thru; Henry the tour guide says he likes McDonalds better but he does enjoy a KFC breakfast and in fact had one today). Once in the Square, we saw Mao’s mausoleum, his enormous picture of him hanging over the square, the flag ceremonially raised each morning and lowered each night, and the various other buildings around the square. (The baby Wyven also got in a shot with Mao’s picture in the background.)
Following Tian’anmen Square, we walked to the Forbidden City and saw some of the buildings and courtyards inside it. Of particular note there was the interest we garnered from Chinese tourists. Ellie Davenport had people lined up to take pictures with her, as perhaps they had never seen such a blond Westerner. Then Charlie Owen was literally grabbed and thrown into a photo with another tourist.
After the Forbidden City, we went by the Olympic Park to see the Bird’s Nest stadium and the Water Cube. This evening, we are using up all the money on our university-provided meal cards (which are luckily also good at various stores and markets on the campus), packing for our train trip to Xi’an and preparing to check out of the hotel in the morning and say goodbye to the North China Electric Power University.